Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Hypocrisy amongst a defense of Maddie-balls.

You'd really think that the Sun would have just said nothing about Gerry McCann's evidence to the culture, media and sport select committee's investigation into press standards and left it at that. Every line and word would have the potential to be gloriously hypocritical and also highlight their own role in the smearing, not perhaps of the McCanns themselves, where they acted for the most part with relative restraint compared to their rivals, but certainly in their far less balanced coverage dedicated to Robert Murat, who the Sun along with the rest of the tabloid media paid damages to.

Instead, it's dedicated a leader to somewhat defending itself, although the real point behind it becomes evident with its conclusion. Still, let's delve in (url subject to change):

KATE and Gerry McCann suffered the double agony of losing a precious daughter — and media lies about their role in her disappearance.

Dignified Gerry says Madeleine’s nightmare abduction plunged them into an agonising “media storm”.

Distraught with shock and guilt, they faced vile claims they murdered their own child and dumped the body.

Trashy “exclusives” added to the grief of this tragically unlucky couple.


Trashy "exclusives" like splashing on the front page with a picture of a random little blonde girl who looked slightly like Madeleine, for example? Or running a completely bogus story about Murat that couldn't possibly have been true because the McCanns themselves told the paper that their daughter hadn't gone missing at the time the witness claimed to have driven them in his cab? Or a 12-page super special on the anniversary of Madeleine going missing that plumbed new depths of even tabloid journalism?

Much blame lies with Portuguese police who made up for their incompetence by smearing the McCanns as suspects, leaving them defenceless against poisonous rumour.

Ah yes, the blame the ignorant, incompetent foreigners defence. I'm pretty sure they didn't force the Sun to print what it did.

Some newspapers greedily pounced on any dodgy rubbish to increase sales.

The Sun’s own coverage was sometimes less than perfect.

But we are proud to have been praised by the McCanns for our steadfast support.

And the tabloids were not alone in this media frenzy.

The BBC’s Huw Edwards fronted the news standing outside alleged suspect Robert Murat’s front door.


Quite true, the BBC hardly helped matters by flying anchors over to Portugal, which was completely over the top. I seem to remember Sky News (majority shareholder R. Murdoch) however had an entire dedicated section to Madeleine, and when the McCanns returned from Portugal followed them for their entire journey from the airport to where they were staying by helicopter, in the world's slowest and most boring car chase. The BBC merely joined in the race to the bottom, and would use the exact same defence as the tabloids would: that they were giving the public what they wanted.

And, it has to be said, the McCanns themselves fed the headlines.

They hired spokesmen, courted the cameras and at one stage flew to Rome to meet the Pope.

Who can blame them? They were desperate to keep the world focused on the search for their little girl.


Again, quite true: from the moment the McCanns went all out with the media hunt the chances of finding their daughter seemed to decline immeasurably. Making your missing child the most famous face in Europe, if not the best part of the world, is not necessarily the best way to find her. They however did this for the best possible reasons: the media regardless chewed them up and spat them out.

Despite all this, Gerry McCann still believes in freedom of speech.

Which is more than can be said for Max Mosley who wants EU-style privacy laws.

Britain already has draconian libel laws and self-regulation. It also has the Press Complaints Commission where issues are resolved swiftly and cheaply, without £500-an-hour lawyers.

The last thing we need is unelected judges censoring the truth about scandalous conduct among the Great and the Good.

And so we get to the real reason for this tortuous leader. McCann incidentally said much the same as Mosley, with he too wanting far tighter regulation. Mosley's demands also fall short of a fully-fledged privacy law: fundamentally he wants those who are going to be featured in exposes like the one he found himself at the centre of to be informed before they go to publication, which is simply common courtesy, so they can then challenge that publication in the courts. In Mosley's case this would have meant that the NotW would not have been published the story in the form it was; it still probably could have splashed on his antics, just not with the fabricated Nazi angle, although again he still could have challenged it on invasion of privacy grounds. It's also true we have draconian libel laws, but as has been argued repeatedly by myself, the PCC is for the most part toothless. To pretend that it's a completely competent and strong regulator is a nonsense, as the McCann case comprehensively proved. Those who respected and feared it would never have published the articles they did in the first place, and the fact that those who subsequently sued firmly rejected going to it with their complaints, and that the McCanns themselves were apparently advised by Christopher Meyer to launch legal action is hardly a vote of confidence in its abilities. Fundamentally, the Sun realises that Mosley threatens their business model: they rely on the scandals and the sex concerning the dregs of the celebrity world which has no real public interest. Exposing the real great and good often is in the public interest.

The chances in any event of any change to the law, which is what it will require rather than rulings by judges, are incredibly slim. That the Sun felt the need to defend itself in print, something it very rarely does, suggests that perhaps it isn't that unthinkable after all.

5 comments:

smithsfan said...

The worst thing about this entire blog entry is that it won't be read by every reader of The Scum...

Yes a sense of proportion is needed because the McCanns created their own story via the PR route... which stage managed their every move and prevented the eyes of the world being diverted to the real problems affecting the underbelly of society; namely the Credit Crunch.

Good year to bury bad news... shame the hangover is all over the 2009 calender.

merrick said...

When a Sun editorial is praising the PCC as an effective press watchdog, that in itself should set alarm bells ringing.

The worst the PCC can do is order a retraction which, despite the rules saying it should have equal prominence with the original story, is usually buried deep inside a paper.

The Evening Standard's story about the Heathrow Climate Camp protesters planning to leave hoax bombs in the airport and smash up the Starbucks were proven to be a big bunch of arse. The PCC ruled in the strongest possible terms (full story here).

The Standard's retraction was vaguely worded and - surprise - not put on the front page like the original two stories.

What's the effect? The same journo is back, telling us that protesters plan a riot in London on April 1st, and only mentioning Climate Camp by name, even though he's no evidence of a riot being planned, let alone Climate Camp's part in it.

With the PCC such a powerless poodle, even if you get your complaint past it (and the folks who decide are media folk) then there's nothing can be done. A little wrist-slap is well worth the extra sales generated by a sensational front page.

headless said...

You appear to have taken up where the Sun left off, in confusing the McCann and Mosley stories as being of the same essence.

Your comment that the Sun "rely on the scandals and the sex concerning the dregs of the celebrity world" equal hypocrisy yourself.

Surely the McCann's are not within the castle walls of "the celebrity world" nevermind that you then appear to count them amongst the "dregs" of that community.

smithsfan said...

headless... the McCanns turned themselves into celebrity by hiring PR consultants. The Sun was the obvious choice for them even though only 2 out of the 65+ million in the country read the damn thing...

I suppose it's something to let their cats crap on when finished... just as Jeremy Kyle comes on.

septicisle said...

headless: They are of the same essence; they both involve individuals being used and abused, regardless of what they are meant to have done wrong. And I didn't confuse the two stories, the Sun's leader did; I was just responding to it.